Q&A #674

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Teaching children a process for solving math problems

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From: abfk

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2003031621:25:06
Subject: My steps for solving word problems

I developed five steps which I made the students memorize and use.
Sometimes I would take points off on tests if they did not show that
they were using the method. When we would go over work on the board or
when they would ask for help, my first question would always be,
"What's the first thing we do, what's Step One? What do we do next?"
Whenever I got soft and did not require the steps, they did not use
them! I tried to reduce the steps down to a mneumonic acronym,
anything to give them easy access to the method. I had to keep finding
ways to make them turn to the method because as you have noted, there
is a terrible disdain for system. Anyway, here are the steps with the
sense of their contents:
     Step One -- Assign algebraic notation; give letter nsmes to the
unknowns; Let x =
     Step Two -- Set up an equation using the information given in the
question and/or common mathematical knowledge such as, "The sum of the
measures of the angles of a triangle equals 180 degrees."
     Step Three -- Solve the equation; discover the value of the
single letter
     Step Four -- Verify; go back to the word problem and see what it
wanted you to find, it may not be simply the value of x
     Step Five -- Check; plug the numerical values into the original
equation for arithmetic confirmation; the error might be in
computation in the checking process, too; if it does not check, start
all over on a fresh piece of paper

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